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The Dangers of Social Media for Our Children's Health

Posted on Aug 08, 2014 by Guest Writer
I knew our family had a problem the day we ran out of electric outlets and my youngest son broke down in tears. BUCKETS of tears. Why? His beloved tablet had to remain uncharged for a few minutes while his brothers’ smartphones and iPods juiced their batteries. 
In his seven year old mind it was vital to check the status of a game. He refused to run outside to swing or ride his scooter. In a house brimming with blocks and Legos, he sat waiting. Watching an orange light. Waiting for it to blink green.
The increased time spent indoors and the lack of activity was my main concern. Was their gross motor skill development suffering? Did my sons lose valuable time exploring nature, building forts, and catching tadpoles? What experiences was social media stealing from my children? 
It was at that moment when I questioned the impact social media was having on our children’s health. 
It has been mentioned that rapid messaging and fast bursts of knowledge may create shorter attention spans. It is unclear if social media affects cognitive processing in children. We do know children are emerging experts* in adjusting thoughts to shortened phrases and hashtags. My oldest is a whiz at summarizing in under 140 characters.
Children’s bodies are on alert when playing games or waiting for that next comment. Adults who are in chronic stress situations frequently have weakened immune systems. A weakened immune system might also be a by product of stress from social media or game play.   
According to Cris Rowan*, pediatric occupational therapist, “Children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of overall ‘shaking’, increased breathing and heart rate, and a general state of ‘unease’." 
Children tend to exhibit more aggressive behaviors. Repeated exposure to violence in media can lead to anxiety, fear, desensitization, and a decreasing concern of others. I have seen this in my youngest. 
However, I am not convinced media is the cause. He has two older brothers to antagonize him. A house full of testosterone is bound to have conflict. 
Higher levels of obesity and less physical activity is where I really notice technology impacting my children’s health. My sons spend a lot of time being sedentary and indoors. Children consume more “junk food” while sitting and surfing media. Poor food choices and lack of exercise might be contributing to the obesity crisis. I see this in our household everytime I lug a bag of chips home from the grocery store.
There have been spikes in physical complaints. The lack of sleep, headaches, motion sickness, and dry eyes are the biggest complaint in our household. It has worked in my favor to limit time for social media. 
Social media increases the Influences of peers by exposing children to self harm behaviors, substance abuse, and risky trends like cinnamon challenges and planking. 
Dr. Richard Woolfson*, child psychologist, said, "Parents need to maintain an open dialogue
and encourage children to share both good and bad online experiences, and make sure they keep up with the latest social media crazes and work with their children rather than trying to control them." 
Tara Heath is a journalist and entrepreneur who contributes parenting content to teensafe.






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